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[y] whether he had been able to procure them for the fervice of it or not.
For these reasons I thought it would not be unacceptable to the lovers of SHAKESPEARE to collate all the Quartos I could find, comparing one copy with the rest, where there were more than one of the same play ; and to multiply the chances of their being preserved, by collecting them into volumes, instead of leaving the few that have escaped, to share the fate of the rest, which was probably haftened by their remaining in the form of pamphlets, their use and value being equally unknown to those into whose hands they fell.
Or fome I have printed more than one copy; as ' there are many persons, who not contented with the possession of a finished picture of some great master, are desirous to procure the firft sketch that was made for it, that they may have the pleasure of tracing the progress of the artist from the first light colouring to the finishing stroke. To such the earlier editions of KING JOHN, Henry THE FIFTH, HENRY THE SixTH, THE Merry WIVES OF WINDSOR, and RoMEO AND JULIET, will, I apprehend, not be unwelcome ; since in these we may discern as much as will be found in the hasty outlines of the pencil, with a fair prospect of that perfection to which He brought every performance He took the pains to retouch.
The general character of the Quarto editions may more advantageously be taken from the words of Mr. Pope, thán from any recommendation of my
“ THE folio edition (says he) in which all the
plays we now receive as his were first collected, “ was published by two players, Heminges and Con
DELL, in 1623, seven years after his decease. They 5 declare that all the other editions were stolen and
surreptitious, and affirm theirs to be purged from 66 the errors of the former. This is true as to the “ literal errors, and no other ; for in all-respects else « it is far worse than the quartos.
“ First, because the additions of triling and bom« baft paffages are in this edition far more numerous. - For whatever had been added since those quartos, by “ the actors, or had stolen from their mouths into the “ written parts, were from thence conveyed into the “ printed text, and all stand charged upon the author. " He himself complained of this usage in Hamlet, 66 where he wishes Those WHO PLAY THE CLOWNS " WOULD SPEAK NO MORE THAN IS SET DOWN FOR THEM
(Act. 3. Sc. 4.) But as a proof that he could not escape cit, in the old editions of ROMEO AND JULIET, there « is no hint of the mean conceits and ribaldries now
to be found there. In others the scenes of the mobs,
plebeians, and clowns are vastly shorter than at pre“ fent ; and I have seen one in particular (which
“ seems to have belonged to the playhouse, by hav.
ing the parts divided by lines, and the actors names “ in the margin) where several of those very passages
were added in a written hand, which since are to be found in the folio.
“ In the next place, a number of beautiful passages " were omitted which were extant in the first single « editions ; as it seems without any other reason than “ their willingness to shorten some scenes.”
To this I must add, that I cannot help looking on the Folio as having suffered other injuries from the licentious alteration of the players ; as we frequently find in it an unusual word changed into one more popular; sometimes to the weakening the sense, which rather seems to have been their work, who knew that plainness was necessary for the audience of an illiterate age, than that it was done by the consent of the author : for he would hardly have unnerved a line in his written copy, which they pretend to have transeribed, however he might have permitted many to have been familiarized in the representation. Were I to indulge my own private conjecture, I should suppose that his blotted manuscripts were read over by one to another among those who were appointed to transcribe them; and hence it might easily happen, that words of fimilar sounds, though of senses directly opposite, might be confounded with each other. They themselves declare that SHAKESPEARE's time of blotting was Vol. I.
past, past, and
half the errors we find in their edition could not be merely typographical. Many of the Quarto's (as our own printers assure me) were far from being unskilfully executed, and some of them were much more correctly printed than the Folio, which was published at the charge of the same proprietors, whose names we find prefixed to the older copies : and I cannot join with Mr. Pope in acquitting that edition of more literal errors than those which went before it. The particles in it seem to be as fortuitously disposed, and proper names as frequently undistinguished by Italic or capital letters from the rest of the text. The punctuation is equally accidental; nor do I see on the whole any greater marks of a skilful revisal, or the advantage of being printed from unblotted originals in the one, than in the other. One reformation indeed there seems to have been made, and
laudable; I mean the substitution of more. general terms for a name too often unnecessarily invoked on the stage; but no jot of obscenity is omitted: and their caution against prophaneness is, in my opinion, the only thing for which we are indebted to the judgment of the editors of the Folio.
may be done by the affistance of the old copies will now be easily known; but a more difficult talk remains behind, which calls for other abilities than are requisite in the laborious collator.
From a diligent perufal of the comedies of contemporary authors, I am persuaded that the meaning of
many expressions in SHAKESPEARE might be retrieved ; for the language of conversation can only be expected to be preserved in works, which in their time assumed the merit of being pictures of men and manners. The stile of conversation we may suppose to be as much altered as that of books; and in consequence of the change we have no other authorities to recur to in either cafe. Should our language ever be recalled to a strict examination, and the fashion become general of ftriving to maintain our old acquisitions instead of gaining new ones, which we fall be at last obliged to give up, or be incumbered with their weight; it will then be lamented that no regular collection was ever formed of the old ENGLISH books; from which, as from antient repositories, we might recover words and phrases as often as caprice or wantonness should call for variety; instead of thinking it necessary to adopt new ones, or barter solid strength for feeble splendor, which no language has long admitted, and retained its purity
We wonder that before the time of SHAKESPEARE, we find the stage in a state so barren of productions, but forget that we have hardly any acquaintance with the authors of that period, though some few of their dramatic pieces may remain. The same might be almost said of the interval between that age and the age of DryDen, the performances of which, not being preserved in sets, or diffused as now, by the greater number printed, must lapse apace into the same obscurity. b 2